I once had the privilege of attending a concert of the famed trumpeter Miles Davis. Hearing him play his “cool jazz” live seemed to be sufficient reason to enjoy the moment then, but I soon realized that his oblivious attention to the audience became the main source of my entertainment. Aloofly turning his back to the seats beyond to focus intently on his own interpretations for each selection, I reviled Miles that night as an arrogantly unappreciative performer. Finishing this brilliantly selfish performance, Miles walked nonchalantly off the stage without returning for the expected post-concert encore. I now realize that Miles did not need to prove his greatness to anyone that night nor did he need the attention of others to satisfy his ego. What factors then did elevate his status to greatness beyond the expected norm?
I spent fifteen years attempting to teach my skill-challenged college students in South Florida to pursue high standards of reading and writing performance. Unfortunately, expectations of success systemwide typically centered around the safe prospect of simply passing the class as a demonstration of minimal competency. Continuing my lifetime commitment to excellence amidst this haunting past of systemic mediocrity, I am attempting to implement three (3) ideas from my teaching days that I perceive to represent greatness through the act of travel.
1. Focus On The Present To Overcome Outside Distraction
As I recall my best teaching performances in college, poetry comes to mind. Immersing my students in the need to read for both fact and emotion, we slowly read each line of a stanza in class. By concentrating on being “in the zone” of present time then, they improved their focus for concentration on the academic task at hand and often learned lessons critical to their their own self understanding. In travel, I have similarly attempted to focus on the “now” experience of my surroundings rather than directing my attention to the uncertain fate at my intended destination. A brief glance of a snowy mountain or a casual conversation with a stranger in transit would stir my curiosity to better myself as a person and gain useful knowledge for future travel.
2. Let Intuition Guide My Projected Path.
The regimented routine of teaching often dictated rigid adherence to a clearly defined lesson plan. Over-reliance on tightly managed time schedules and heavily scripted teacher editions often limited my ability to make changes to lesson content when it appeared my students were not absorbing the material presented. The intuition of my Plan B psyche became my norm then as I frequently found classical music and You Tube videos to be an effective, non-traditional learning medium. I similarly have road tripped across the U.S., accompanied by a massive amount of map/travel guide information and my vehicle’s GPS directional guidance system for planning my intended itinerary of travel. There are frequent occasions, however, when I have intuitively felt the need the need to get off the Interstate highway to blindly explore countryside locations in more detail. Traveling Route 66 in the West and U.S. 61 along the Mississippi River have revealed meaningful insights about the history of this country that my research had not mentioned.
3. The Basics Propel Higher Functioning Abilities
In my youth, I learned the meaning of the phrase, ” You cannot squeeze blood out of a turnip.” If a student had not learned fundamental basics of Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension in high school, then there was a viable purpose for them to take my college reading class. In my 16 week semester, I systematically approached the instruction of each skill as a building block to the next one. By the end of the course, students who were initially diagnosed at a reading level of 6th grade were now able to function competently with academic reading tasks at the college level. Similarly, I have recently found that my attempt to sustain a lifestyle of world traveler would require me to build knowledge of deep, cultural values and second language settings to better prepare me for packing wisely, maximizing safety and spending frugally in my future globetrotting endeavors. I have additionally refrained from making comments about race, politics, and religion on Facebook/Twitter without sufficient background information of fact.
It is clear then that a true artist does not need the gratifications of others to exhibit greatness of craft. To remain relevant to the present would also skirt the real meaning of being brilliant. In a world of “what have you done for me lately”, one must set their own high standards of excellence in spite of the inducement to follow the expected road to success